Castle owners ‘gutted’ as iconic attraction crumbles
A piece of cement crumbling off a stairwell proved to Birte Benecke-Uhrig what she long feared, the Coast’s 49-year-old castle was not built to stand the test of time.
It has been deemed unsafe to continue tours at the iconic Sunshine Castle at Bli Bli after irreparable structural issues were realised at Australia’s biggest castle.
The toy shop, cafe and a mini tour will continue and owners Mrs Benecke-Uhrig and husband Stephan say the business’s future is dependent on community support.
The castle was built in 1972, originally to house fairytale dioramas and dolls, and attracted one million visitors in its first three years trading as Fairytale Castle.
Under their ownership since 2006 Mrs Benecke-Uhrig said they worked to extend the life of the structure for as long as possible.
“Very recently a piece of the castle facade has come away and exposed the internal structure uncovering far greater issues than we had previously been aware of,” she said.
“We are totally gutted.”
She said the mini tour would feature armour and history shields, the renovated Doll Museum, gallery, dancing dolls, fairytale walk and the model train set.
Instead of the $15 fee visitors can pay whatever they deem appropriate.
Mrs Benecke-Uhrig’s parents Bernd and Margarat Uhrig acquired the then run-down castle in 2002 after it was on the market for more than 10 years.
She said her family worked hard to return it to its former glory as a well-known tourism attraction.
But as they learn the extent of the “concrete cancer” Mrs Benecke-Uhrig said she was unsure what the business’s future looked like.
“We have to see how much we can generate with what we have here now,” she said.
“I’ve put my heart and soul into this for 15 years and this was the last thing I wanted to see happen.”
She said locals and tourists had visited the castle “in droves” during the holidays.
“We could offer them something we usually would see overseas, so I think that’s why it became so attractive,” she said.
“I just feel sad for all the people who didn’t have a chance to come one last time and that I’ve had to be the one to make this decision.”